There is generally only space in a consumer's mind for a few brands. This
is why you tend to see two or three main competitors at the top of most
product lines: Coke and Pepsi, Intel and Athlon, Apple and Microsoft,
Google and Bing, and so on. Once a consumer's needs have been met,
there is little incentive to seek out a new product to fill the same need. A
second and sometimes third competitor, can still get their foot in the door,
but beyond them, the market shares tend to drop off significantly. For
example, Google is top for search tools, and since the deal with Yahoo,
Microsoft's Bing is running second, but ask yourself who comes in third,
fourth, and fifth? Companies like Ask are a long way off.
So for a new company to break in, the only option is to create a new market
by adding an angle. To use the search example again, there are sites that
dominate in job search such as SimplyHired and Indeed, or in travel search
such as Kayak. These search engines have realized they can't compete on
the broadest top level, but are dominating their own sub-niches.
If we put together a pyramid diagram for search, we'd have Google and Bing
at the top. On the B-level we'd have smaller competitors like Ask, along with
the niche search engines like Indeed and Kayak and significant but smaller
non-English search engines like Baidu and Taobao from China. Then on the
C-level we might have country-specific search engines, newer "Googlekiller"
search engines like Wolphram Alpha, old has-beens like Altavista, and
It's important to realize that if you were to then put a pyramid diagram
together for say, job search, then all of a sudden SimplyHired would be on
the A-level of this niche, and there would be a new set of Bs and Cs and Ds.
The same reasoning and rules apply for blogs and topic areas. In every
niche there is only space for a few top-level sites. They tend to be blogs
that have been around for a while, that have done an exceedingly good job,
and that have been really consistent. In larger blog niches, the top blogs
have often gone commercial either by becoming stand-alone companies like
TechCrunch, or being acquired by media companies the way Engadget has
been by AOL.
It is extremely difficult to displace an A-level blog, but it is possible. To do
this you would need to bring something really new to the table, such as a
new format, a new standard for breaking news, build on different audience
demographics, a magnetic key personality, new partnerships somewhere in
the industry, or all of the above and more. You would also want to bank on
the A-level blog stumbling somehow and possibly eroding some of their
It is much easier to create a new sub-niche to dominate, or to build a
serious competitor in an existing niche and aim for the B-level and then from
there to slowly edge your way into the A league. To do this, you simply need
to find, and then thoroughly mine gaps in the market.
What Gaps Are There?
Finding a gap in the market is a fundamental strategy for any startup. A gap
is an untapped demand that you can fill to create a viable business.
You want to ask yourself what is the competition not doing? What reader
needs aren't being met? What angles haven't been explored? What features
are missing? What type of content do readers want? The more populated
the niche is, the harder this is to do because many bloggers have gone
before you looking for the same gaps.
With that said, there are always gaps somewhere that you can exploit to get
a foothold. Here are some strategies for finding gaps:
1. Start Blogging in the Niche
Working in a niche is the best way to see gaps because you naturally
get a very strong feel for what is happening there. If you are really
committing to a particular niche, you can start a small test blog for a
month or two to evaluate post strategies and ideas. Alternately, you can
get work writing for established blogs in the niche to find out how they
work and what they are doing.
2. What is the Competition Not Doing
Focus on what isn't there rather than what is. Maybe the site focuses
on one particular country or language, maybe it's only covering some
aspects of the niche, maybe its format is a particular style, maybe
the volume of posts isn't there, or maybe the depth of coverage is
missing. Look for missing elements and evaluate them as potential key
Ask other readers what they would like to see. You can do this on
forums, in comments, in a blog post if you have a small test blog, or
informally by contacting people you know are interested in the niche.
4. Be the Other Guy
A common strategy for differentiating is to position yourself as the
antithesis of the top competitor. You can do this by posting opposing
opinions, focusing on different aspects of the niche, or simply beating
the top competitor to stories. For every dominant business, there is a
certain segment of the niche that